As thousands are gripping with the fact that they’ve been deemed ineligible in the state of Florida for unemployment benefits, many are looking for direction on what’s next.
The Department of Economic Opportunity told us earlier this week that if someone applied before April 5, they need to do another application. A news released published on Thursday afternoon states that people who applied for the state’s Reemployment Assistance benefits on or after April 5 and were deemed ineligible for state benefits will receive additional application information from the department. The same release states people who are self-employed, contract employees, gig workers, or others who applied for state benefits should apply again.
As frustration mounds from community members across the state, labor and employment attorneys we’ve talked this week say you should appeal the decision made by the DEO if you know you meet requirements.
The DEO website says unemployment benefits are available to Floridians who have been negatively impacted as a “result of mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Labor and employment attorney Matt Fenton says if you were laid off due to the coronavirus you should be approved unless you don’t meet minimum requirements.
The DEO resource guide lists the following as eligibility requirements:
- You must have lost your job through no fault of your own, so you must not have quit for personal reasons or been terminated for misconduct
- You must be totally or partially unemployed
- You must have a minimum amount of wages earned in what is called the “base period,” which is the first 12 months of the past 15 months from when you filed your claim
- At the time you apply, you must be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work, unless otherwise exempt from this requirement. This includes being physically able to perform a job and having child care if necessary
These are the reasons the DEO stated to us via an email statement on Tuesday as to why some of you may have been deemed ineligible:
- Wage base period issues
- Lack of wage history
- Multiple claims in one year
- Separation circumstances
- Incomplete applications
- Among others
“We’ve gotten a ton of calls from people who have been getting denied in ways that we’ve never seen before so there’s clearly something very bizarre going on in unemployment right now,”said Labor and Employment attorney at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, Matt Fenton.
He says there’s nothing normal about the way the unemployment process has unfolded during the pandemic.
“We have a system that was structurally unsound and unprepared for this type of event,” said Fenton.
The DEO website says you must request an appeal hearing within 20 days of receiving your denial.
You can send the appeal document by mail, fax, email or on the connect website.
Mail: DEO Office of Appeals PO Box 5250 Tallahassee, FL 32399
Fax: (850) 617-6504
Or online on through CONNECT. Here’s a guide on how to do it.
Once that paperwork is received you will then get a notice of hearing.
“If you can just persevere and get that audience then there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And chances are it’s not a train...there’s actually something good at the other end and you just have to persevere. And unfortunately there is nothing you can do to expedite that process," said Fenton.
Fenton says before coronavirus, it usually took three to six weeks to get seen for a hearing. He says it’s hard to say how long it will take now.
“Frankly I have not heard what they [DEO] are doing to handle what’s going to be a higher volume of appeals just based on the higher volume of people who have applied. I am not aware of extra hearing officers being hired but hopefully they are otherwise that’s going to be slow process too,” said Fenton.
We’ve put in several media requests and question to the Department of Economic Opportunity about this and have yet to hear back as of 8 p.m. on Thursday.
The latest numbers from the DEO database show 916, 002 unique claims have been submitted. There are currently 231,435 claims in the queue awaiting verification.
684, 657 claims have been processed so far according to the DEO.
Of which, 418,134 claimants were deemed eligible. 266, 523 people were deemed ineligible. The percent of ineligible people continue to decrease. Tuesday it reports said 40.3%, Wednesday 39.5%, Thursday evening it’s reported at a 38.9%.
So far the DEO has paid $579,530,328 to 416,683 people across the state who have applied for unemployment benefits. $240,344,298 of that chunk is from Reemployment Assistance (RA) the other $339,185,400 are from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
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